Life in the creeks was hell Wilson, ex-militant leader
Sunday, January 29,  2012

Some call him Pastor. Others call him General. And in some cases, some of his fans put the two titles together and his full name then becomes General Pastor Reuben Wilson. He held sway in the creeks of the Niger Delta for about three years before he was dragged out by the Federal Government in 2009 when he accepted amnesty and surrendered his arms. Today, Wilson is the chairman of the Leadership Forum for Peace in Niger Delta and has used the organization to reach out to militants who are yet to surrender their arms.
In this interview, he speaks on the state of the nation among other issues. Excerpts…

How has life been since you came out of the creeks?
Nothing is as sweet as freedom. When we were in the creeks, we would not go out to the town. We would only leave our camp to the nearby riverine communities and then back to the camp. The only thing we were enjoying in the creeks was fish. Anytime we needed fish, we had enough. But you can’t compare the life we are enjoying now with the life in the creeks.

Then, we were in bondage, fighting with mosquitoes everyday. To drink water, we would dig holes for water to come out. If you saw our skin then, you would pity us. Now, we can go anywhere we want to go. We were there for like three years and could not see our wives. There is a very big difference between life then and life now. So, anybody who has tasted a life of freedom and does not treasure it is a stupid person. Today, I am a happier person.

Is it easy to identify those who are still with arms in the creeks?
Yes, very easy. We know most of them. We talk to most of them on the phone. I have visited two camps when government sent me. I went to a camp in Ekeremor Local Government of Bayelsa State and I went to see General Mammy Water and before I went there, he warned that I should not come to his camp with security men. Of course, that was normal. I led the team to the place with ordinary people and he appeared with his boys and guns and we told him that it was of no use for him to remain in the creeks, that if he continued that way, he would have nothing to gain.

I told him to embrace peace. In November last year, I also visited General Lato who is leading a camp in a creek in Cross River State. I went there with an Army captain who was dressed in mufti. I can’t talk about the quantity of guns he came out with but among them were machine guns. But I was not deterred, I told him to consider coming out of the camp to embrace peace. The good thing was that he was ready to drop his guns if the Federal Government opened the amnesty doors for him.

We are waiting for the Federal Government to react because all those I have met are ready to drop their arms. Let me remind you, among those who came out to accept amnesty during the second phase was Commander Koko, I went and talked to him and he accepted and dropped his arms at the JTF in Bayelsa State. There are people that have accepted the amnesty but who are still having some issues with the authorities. Through this platform, I have been able to address such issues. Just recently, I went to Ezedu to settle a rift. I was also at Akwa Ibom to settle similar issues.

How many camps are still active right now?
Right now, I can’t know the number. Let me tell you, the boys that are terrorizing the river, you cannot know how many camps they are operating from. Just of recent, somebody called me from Bonny that a group of boys attacked some Army men and three days ago, I was told that in the Kalabiri area, close to Bille, two groups clashed and people died. In Akwa Ibom State, there was a clash among those groups and about eight people died and that was two days ago. So, I can’t really say the number of camps that are still operating. But whoever is still in the camp now is a criminal.

Some of them actually started opening their camps after we had accepted the amnesty offer and we did not know them. What they do is to terrorise traders on the sea and hijack trawlers. Recently, I sent my boys to the village to go and drop things for me and as they were coming back, they met sea pirates. My speed boat was 115 horse power and my boys were not armed. The pirates attacked them when they were on the sea trying to fix the engine boat that developed a fault but my sea pilot being an expert was able to overrun them on the sea and my boys overpowered them and arrested all of them and they were handed over to the commissioner of police in Bayelsa State. We still have pockets of criminals like this who are yet to understand that the party is over.

What gave rise to the formation of Leadership Forum for Peace in Niger Delta?
We decided to float this body to use it as a platform to launch a peace action that would result in persuading freedom fighters that are still in the creeks to come out and accept the government’s amnesty so that we can achieve total peace in the polity. All of us are former militants that embraced amnesty and we are out to also help the Federal Government to achieve development.

Right now, there is still violence in some parts of the country and sometimes, my attention is called upon to go and talk to those who are still making trouble in the Niger Delta. I can tell you that there, we still have some youths who are still carrying arms and terrorizing people. So, what we do is to go and talk them into seeing reason with us and accept the amnesty. But the Federal Government has said that the doors of the amnesty programme are shut.

Yes. I agree that the amnesty scheme stopped in October 2009 but after then, the Federal Government still accepted the second phase of repentant militants into the programme and that was in 2010. But on the third phase, they said they won’t accept them again. However, we are still talking with the Federal Government and equally, we are pleading with the people with arms to drop them. When we dropped our arms and accepted the amnesty offer, they were afraid that they would be arrested but now they have seen that the government meant well. That is why we are pleading with the Federal Government to accept them when they drop their arms.
You have an organization that is promoting peace but there has not been peace in Nigeria for sometime now.

Yesterday, it was Boko Haram, now it is fuel subsidy troubles. What’s your take on the situation?
The thing is that Nigeria belongs to everybody. We understand that the people who are causing the havoc are doing so because of Goodluck Jonathan and you will recall that when he was presenting himself for the election, a lot of comments were made by certain people. Some of them were bold enough to say that if Jonathan took over, they would make Nigeria ungovernable. Book Haram does not seem to know what they are doing.

We were told that their grouse is that they did not want western education. But tell me, when did you hear that Boko Haram has burnt a school? They are bombing churches and other public facilities. That is to show you that they are not sincere. Why can’t they come out to say this is what we are fighting for? They are merely acting a script and they want to make sure that Jonathan does not concentrate. We will not follow them.

All we are saying is that they should support Jonathan and allow him to concentrate so that we can all enjoy this fresh air. Before he contested the election, he promised Nigerians a regime of fresh air and that is exactly what he is pursuing. He wants the good of our children. That is the truth. Come to think of the subsidy removal protests, why is it that those who are leading the protests are those who failed their elections?
You call yourself a politician and because you could not win an election, you now find an opportunity to lead a group of innocent and unsuspecting boys to go into the streets to protest. What are you protesting for? If the people that you are leading now knew you are a credible person, why did they not vote you into office? Some are even abusing Mr president and it is very bad. Look at somebody like Pastor Tunde Bakare. How can he lead his people? He cannot. The Bible says by their fruits we shall know them.

He is raining curses on the president. Is he supposed to curse or bless? I pity those who are in his church. Some for them are even sending text messages to people that the president should be impeached, that the military should take over. Can you imagine? Just because he is from the South-South? The Army are a wise people and they will not disrespect the constitution of the land. Let me tell you, they cannot impeach the president. If they try that, I can assure you that it will turn to something else. Nobody will be happy to see their own son being disgraced out of office.

This is the first time that somebody from this region would get to that office and now they are saying that because he wants to stop a cabal from stealing our collective wealth under the guise of subsidy, that they want to impeach him. It cannot happen. If the northerners knew, they would not do what they are doing. I am from Koluama in Southern Ijaw. We don’t have money. We don’t have roads. From Yenagoa to my place is three hours with speed boat and when you go there, you see flames everywhere. That is a place that was once flooded and the people wiped out. As I talk to you now, water has gone back there and the people’s existence is being threatened.

This was part of why we had to take up arms to attract government attention. When others were buying fuel for N65 per litre, we were buying fuel for N200. As I talk now, we are buying for N300, yet the oil is from my area. Do they have oil in the north? No. Yet, we are buying the fuel at a more expensive rate than they are buying. The late Yar’Adua told us to accept amnesty and we accepted. Today, they are bombing and killing our people. The government is planning to give buses to the states. How about the riverine communities? There is no plan for them but have we killed people? What I will say is that we need to give peace a chance.

You are saying it is difficult for them to impeach the president
I am saying that it is not possible. Impeachment will lead to more violence and for us in this forum, our major concern is how to achieve peace. We will take it upon ourselves to go about the country and talk to our compatriots to give peace a chance.

We do not want to think of what happened in those days before we accepted amnesty. We want Nigeria to remain one. Yes, we have heard that some people predicted that Nigeria will split in 2015 but I can tell you that this satanic prediction will not work.

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